Recently, Luna has built up enough trust to nest on my shoulders. She’ll relax in a perfectly balanced position as I go about my normal routines working on the computer, making coffee and wandering from room to room. Gentle, consistent movements that she can predict and few expectations that she’ll stay; she’s up when she wants and gets off when she feels it’s time to depart.
Of course, my sons see this and continually ask why Luna won’t ride on their shoulders. I’ve caught them more than a few times heaving her up on their backs with instructions like “Sit down Luna”; often these commands come with a vice-like grip, holding her in place momentarily. Yesterday, that resulted in someone getting a nice scratch down one arm (taken without complaint, but with the comment “Luna, that wasn’t very nice." as the cat ran away).
They’re confused as to why I can successfully get her to ride on my shoulders while they can’t. They’re confused when I tell them that I don’t put her there; she comes on her own. She wants to be close and cuddle, but on her terms, not mine.
Many of our relationships are like this, especially in the service industry. When we can find it, we always prefer to do business with people that we trust. When I eat out, I want to trust that my server is really listening to me. In a hotel, I want to trust that my room assignment meets my needs. The sweet lady at the coffee counter on campus knows that I like a large, single cream with two cups because I'll be walking across campus.
Trust takes time to build, a commitment to slow, incremental steps of consistent behaviour that create a comfortable, predictable environment. Safe, but not in the boring fashion – rather the safety that comes from knowing someone has your best interests in mind and is looking out for you.
Building up a trusting relationship takes time and intention. There are no shortcuts. It cannot be transferred from someone else. And trust, just like your reputation, can be quickly damaged. When building a trusting relationship, consider:
- Moving slowly – jumping into action, demonstrating too much intensity, or jumping to the end of the interaction (such as trying to close way too soon!) will not build a foundation of trust. It’s not about you – it’s about building trust
- Being fluid – be aware of changes happening, whether it’s with the people you are dealing with or the context you are working within. Cookie cutter responses used in changing, fluid situations do not demonstrate authenticity. Remember that it’s not about you – it’s about building trust.
- Showing patience – sometimes relationships make progress, while other times they slide backwards. Invest time being with people, talking to them and demonstrating that you will be consistent in how you deal with them. (It’s not about you – it’s about building trust.)
- Investing time – trust comes from establishing a historical base of actions that meet or go beyond our expectations. Sure, an initial WOW moment is great for getting attention. But remember that flames make a fire pretty, while the coals are what gives it real heat. Coals take time to develop and are much tougher to extinguish. It's not about you - I think you've heard this before.
These are tough concepts for my boys right now. They are hardly fluid, rarely move slowly, and patience is measured in seconds around here.
Luckily, Luna knows some pretty good hiding spots.